Newly proposed bipartisan comprehensive immigration and asylum reforms face tough road ahead in both chambers of Congress.
Senate Democrats negotiating with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) on provisions to reform U.S. immigration laws, refused to even discuss including any provisions to relieve problems in big cities like New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago connected to the flood of illegal immigrants enabled by President Joe Biden.
Asked by The Epoch Times if any provisions addressing such problems were included or discussed, Mr. Lankford said such discussion was off limits from the beginning of the negotiations that weeks ago.
“It does not, this is a border security bill and it is an issue of how do we actually secure our southern border but it does not address those that are currently here. That was one of the red lines that we all had at the very beginning. The Democrats were very clear they would not be willing to address those,” Mr. Lankford responded during a late evening digital sit-down with reporters.
“We were trying to stop the problem from getting worse every day and there’s still plenty that needs to be done and by far this bill doesn’t address every issue, either with immigration or the border itself. We are trying to deal with the largest issues where we can make progress,” he said.
The 280-page text of the draft bill Mr. Lankford negotiated with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Az.) was released late in the day Sunday and drew quick reaction, virtually all of it hostile from House Republicans.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) said the text was “worse than he expected” and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Republican Conference, called the proposal “an absolute non-starter.”
The Oklahoma Republican, who is among the Senate’s most conservative lawmakers, expressed surprise with Mr. Johnson’s judgment that the text was worse than expected.
“I’m a little confused by how it’s worse than expected when it builds border wall, expands deportations, expands ICE officers, Border Patrol officers, detention beds, how it creates a faster process for deportation, how it clears up a lot of the long-term issue loopholes that have existed in the asylum law and then gets us an emergency authority that stops the chaos right now on border,” Mr. Lankford said.
“So I’m a little confused, I‘ll have to get with the Speaker’s team on that and find out what part would be ’worse than what we expected’ based on the actual text and hopefully they will all have had an opportunity to read through the text,” he continued.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to find a way to stop the chaos at the border. We’ve got millions of people literally, since Oct. 1, we’ve had a million people cross the border. There is no way to have a shot at slowing this down if we don’t have a major shift in what’s happening at the border because it is clear that this president is not intent on enforcing the law with the authorities that he already has. We’re trying to find a way to stop this not just for now but for decades in the future,” he added.’
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he expects the bill to be debated and possibly voted on in the Senate as early as Feb. 7, but the intensity of House Republican opposition could make any action in the upper chamber problematic.
Mr. Lankford said he is open to amendments being considered from the floor of both the Senate and House as well as additional negotiations.
“Yes, multiple of our members have talked about amendments, which I would welcome in the Senate and I would welcome them in the House as well, since that is the nature of trying to make legislation, to get as many to look at it and determine this is what we have and how can we make this better. I have no pride of ownership here. If we’re able to improve the bill as we work our way through the process, let’s do that,” Mr. Lankford said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement in which he expressed support for the proposal, saying, “The Biden Administration’s refusal to secure the border created an unprecedented crisis, and the urgent humanitarian and security consequences affect every state.”
“It is time to force the President to start cleaning up his mess and equip future leaders with a system that works and new emergency tools to restore order.”